Drones in focus at Flinders forum

An SA Police operator with one of their new remotely piloted aircraft

They’re all over the news – and following an announcement by SA Police earlier this week, there could soon be one over your head.

In technical jargon they’re known as unmanned aerial systems (UAS), but you
probably know them as drones; and as they turn their hi-tech lenses and circuitry towards our towns and cities, many people are asking how much do we really know about this technology, and do we really understand the implications of its use in our society.

These will be among the topics up for discussion at Flinders University’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Forum on Monday, which comes hot on the heels of an SA Police announcement on Tuesday that they had purchased two of these systems. At the forum, which is the first major initiative from Flinders University’s new Centre for Crime Policy and Research (CCPR), a panel of national and international experts will discuss the current state of unmanned aerial systems, their capabilities and applications in civilian contexts, and the implications of their use for the future.

Speakers at the event, at Flinders in the City, Victoria Square, will include Assistant Commissioner Alistair Dawson from Queensland Police; David Watts, Privacy Commissioner and Commissioner for Law Enforcement Data Security Victoria; Stuart Ellis, CEO of the Australasian Fire Authorities Council; Professor Reece Clothier from Aerospace Engineering, RMIT Victoria; and Professor Hillary Farber from the University of Massachusetts.

Andrew Goldsmith, Strategic Professor of Criminology, and Director of the CCPR, has been an avid watcher of the development of drone technology. He said the forum was a unique and timely opportunity for people in South Australia to gain a better understanding of drones and the ethical and regulatory issues raised by their use.

“The impact of new technologies in policing and criminal justice is one of the key focuses of Flinders University’s Centre for Crime Policy Research,” Professor Goldsmith said. “Our first forum is focusing on drones because they are likely to be game changers in a range of areas of public life, including the ways in which police operate and laws are enforced.

One of SAPOL’s new remotely piloted aircraft

“Undoubtedly there will be many benefits, but there will also inevitably be a trade-off between privacy and security. Finding the right balance is going to be a key challenge for policy makers and regulators.

“We want to inform that debate by discussing the use of UAS in a range of public and private arenas with the fire services, police, drone manufacturers and privacy advocates. This includes the prospect of private citizens buying them from hobby shops and gaining eyes in the sky wherever they like.”

For more information, or to register for the Unmanned Aerial Systems Forum, click here.

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